Category Archive: News

Dec 07 2016

Want to bring a VVols technical education session to your local VMUG meeting?

One of the challenges around VVols adoption is that most customers just don’t understand what exactly it is and how it will benefit them over what they use today. I’ve tried to overcome that challenge by presenting VVol technical sessions wherever I can including VMUG UserCon’s, VMworld, HPE Discover, webinars, etc. and the content has always been very well received. I had the idea to take that a step further and offer myself to present at local VMUG events as well to try and educate even more people on VVols. I think I also convinced Pete Flecha, VMware’s VVol technical guru to join in as well.

So VMUG leaders across the US my offer to you is this, if you want to have a great VVols technical session at your next local VMUG meeting get a hold of me and let me know. Depending on schedules I’ll try and commit to it right away and also see if Pete can make it as well. HPE will be paying for my travel to your event but I will keep the session very vendor neutral and about VVols in general much as I did at my VMworld VVol session that was a sponsor session. I can be an add-on if you already have a sponsor for your local VMUG or if you need me to pop for lunch I can do that as well.

My only ask from you is to try and give me at least 3-4 weeks notice prior to your local VMUG event (preferably a little more). The session can be from 45 – 90 min based on how much time you have available. You can contact me via Twitter or email and I look forward to coming to your event to present an enlightening technical session on VVols.

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Nov 30 2016

VMware on Reddit

redditI’m an avid Reddit reader and enjoy it on a daily basis. If you’re not familiar with Reddit it is the self-proclaimed front page of the internet with a huge variety of user submitted content. Reddit is composed of a large number of sub-forums on everything from food to pictures to DIY to news and even technology. Reddit forums are in subdirectory format with the syntax being /r/<forum Name>. The forums are patrolled by moderators and have rules on how and what you can post but for the most part you can talk about anything on topic to a particular forum. Often times links to content published elsewhere on the internet (i.e. blogs) are posted there for user to discuss and comment on.

There are a few forums that virtualization and VMware users might be interested in that I have listed below. The VMware one in particular is probably the most relevant, it’s not directly controlled by VMware itself but some of the moderators are VMware employees. I see this forum as complementary to the VMTN forums, there isn’t a huge amount of posts so it’s easier to keep with and there are some interesting conversations published there. So go on and check it out, if you haven’t used Reddit before you will become quickly hooked to it, I always visit the main page several times a day which is full of great & hot content.

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Nov 23 2016

How will VM Encryption in vSphere 6.5 impact performance?

VMware finally introduced native VM-level encryption in vSphere 6.5 which is a welcome addition, but better security always comes with a cost and with encryption that cost is additional resource overhead which could potentially impact performance. Overall I think VMware did a very good job integrating encryption in vSphere, they leveraged Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) and the vSphere APIs for I/O Filtering (VAIO) to seamlessly integrate encryption into the hypervisor. Prior to vSphere 6.5, you didn’t see VAIO used for more than I/O caching, well encryption is a perfect use case for it as VAIO allows direct integration right at the VM I/O stream.

So let’s take a closer look at where the I/O filtering occurs with VAIO. Normally storage I/O initiates at the VM’s virtual SCSI device (User World) and then makes it way through the VMkernel before heading onto the physical I/O adapter and to the physical storage device. With VAIO the filtering is done close to the VM in the User World with the rest of the VAIO framework residing in the VMkernel as shown in the below figure, on the left is the normal I/O path without VAIO and on the right is with VAIO:

VAIOWhen an I/O goes through the filter there are several actions that an application can take on each I/O, such as fail, pass, complete or defer it. The action taken will depend on the application’s use case, a replication application may defer I/O to another device, a caching application may already have a read request cached so it would complete the request instead of sending it on to the storage device. With encryption it would presumably defer the I/O to the encryption engine to be encrypted before it is written to it’s final destination storage device.

So there are definitely a few more steps that must be taken before encrypted data is written to disk, how will that impact performance? VMware did some testing and published a paper on the performance impact of using VM encryption. Performing encryption is mostly a CPU intensive as you have to do complicated math to encrypt data, the type of storage that I/O is written to plays a factor as well but not in the way you would think. With conventional spinning disk there is actually less performance impact from encryption compared to faster disk types like SSD’s and NVMe. The reason for this is that because data is written to disk faster the CPU has to work harder to keep up with the faster I/O throughput.

The configuration VMware tested with was running on Dell PowerEdge R720 servers with two 8-core CPU’s, 128GB memory and with both Intel SSD (36K IOPS Write/75K IOPS Read) – and Samsung NVMe (120K IOPS/Write750K IOPS Read) storage. Testing was done with Iometer using both sequential and random workloads. Below is a summary of the results:

  • 512KB sequential write results for SSD – little impact on storage throughput and latency, significant impact on CPU
  • 512KB sequential read results for SSD – little impact on storage throughput and latency, significant impact on CPU
  • 4KB random write results for SSD – little impact on storage throughput and latency, medium impact on CPU
  • 4KB random read results for SSD – little impact on storage throughput and latency, medium impact on CPU
  • 512KB sequential write results for NVMe – significant impact on storage throughput and latency, significant impact on CPU
  • 512KB sequential read results for NVMe – significant impact on storage throughput and latency, significant impact on CPU
  • 4KB random write results for NVMe – significant impact on storage throughput and latency, medium impact on CPU
  • 4KB random read results for NVMe – significant impact on storage throughput and latency, medium impact on CPU

As you can see, there isn’t much impact on SSD throughput and latency but with the more typical 4KB workloads the CPU overhead is moderate (30-40%) with slightly more overhead on reads compared to writes. With NVMe storage there is a lot of impact to storage throughput and latency overall (60-70%) with moderate impact to CPU overhead (50%) with 4KB random workloads. The results varied a little bit based on the number of workers (vCPUs) available used.

They also tested with VSAN using a hybrid configuration consisting of 1 SSD & 4 10K drives, below is a summary of those results:

  • 512KB sequential read results for vSAN – slight-small impact on storage throughput and latency, small-medium impact on CPU
  • 512KB sequential write results for vSAN – slight-small impact on storage throughput and latency, small-medium impact on CPU
  • 4KB sequential read results for vSAN – slight-small impact on storage throughput and latency, slight impact on CPU
  • 4KB sequential write results for vSAN – slight-small impact on storage throughput and latency, small-medium impact on CPU

The results with VSAN varied a bit based on the number of workers used, with less workers (1) there was only a slight impact, as you added more work workers there was more impact to throughput, latency and CPU overhead. Overall though the impact was more reasonable at 10-20%.

Now your mileage will of course vary based on many factors such as your workload characteristics and hardware configurations but overall the faster your storage and the slower your CPUs and # of them the more performance penalty you can be expected to encounter. Also remember you don’t have to encrypt your entire environment and you can pick and choose which VM’s you want to encrypt using storage policies so that should lessen the impact of encryption. If you have a need for encryption and the extra security it provides it’s just the price you pay, how you use it is up to you. With whole VM’s being capable of slipping out of your data center over a wire or in someone’s pocket, encryption is invaluable protection for your sensitive data. Below are some resources for more information on VM encryption in vSphere 6.5:

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Nov 22 2016

Looking for an affordable backup solution for your VMware environment? Check out Nakivo

Nakivo is a relatively new company in the backup solution segment for VMware environments, having been founded in 2012. I’ll be honest I had not heard of them until recently but once I looked into them I was impressed with their solutions and rapid growth rate. Their core product, Nakivo Backup & Replication provides companies with a robust data protection solution for their VMware environment and features an impressive list of enterprise grade features at an affordable price point.

nakivo-boxNakivo Backup & Replication can be deployed in a variety of methods including as a virtual appliance, on Windows or Linux, on AWS and something I found pretty slick, directly on a Synology or Western Digital NAS device. I have a Synology NAS unit as part of my home lab and they are great units that are available from small 2 drive models all the way up to 12 drive models that can be rack mounted or put on a shelf. To install it inside your Synology NAS unit you simply download the NAS package from Nakivo and then go to the Package Center in the Synology management console and install it. Once installed you can then access it from within your Synology management console.

As far as features go, Nakivo Backup & Replication has plenty of them including the following:

Plus a lot more, for the full list you can check out the Nakivo Backup & Replication product page or datasheet. That all sounds great, but what’s it going to cost you? I was impressed by their affordable pricing as well, their entry point is $199/socket for Pro Essentials and $299 for Enterprise Essentials which gets you more features. Their Essentials licensing is similar to VMware’s Essentials offering as they are sized for smaller SMB environments and have a limit of 6 licenses per environment. Their Pro ($399/socket) and Enterprise ($599/socket) licenses offer the same feature sets as their Essentials counterparts but with unlimited scalability. Nakivo even makes it attractive to move from a competitor’s platform with special discounted $149/socket trade-in price. You can view the full pricing, licensing and feature information here.

Nakivo lets you try before you buy with a trial edition and they also offer a free edition as well. Their free edition is fully functional but has a limit of protecting only 2 VMs. So if you want to ensure that your VMware environment is well-protected from data corruption, malware, user mistakes, hardware failures or disasters give Nakivo a look and get peace of mind for an affordable price.

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Nov 21 2016

vSphere C# Client officially gone in vSphere 6.5 but what are the HTML5 client limitations

vsphere-client-tombstone-cropEarlier this year I wrote about the end of life for our beloved vSphere C# thick client. Now that vSphere 6.5 is here VMware delivered on their promise to eliminate the C# client in vSphere 6.5 in lieu of the new HTML5 client that they have been working on to replace the current flash-based vSphere web client that everybody hates on. The new HTML5 web based client is much faster then the old flash client and is a great improvement but the only problem is that its only half done and has a lot of limitations right now. From the vSphere 6.5 release notes:

As of vSphere 6.5, VMware is discontinuing the installable desktop vSphere Client, one of the clients provided in vSphere 6.0 and earlier. vSphere 6.5 does not support this client and it is not included in the product download. vSphere 6.5 introduces the new HTML5-based vSphere Client, which ships with vCenter Server alongside the vSphere Web Client. Not all functionality in the vSphere Web Client has been implemented for the vSphere Client in the vSphere 6.5 release.

So in vSphere 6.5 you pretty much have two options for managing your vSphere environment: use the older, flash based web client that is fully functional, or use the new HTML5 web client which performs much better but is not full functional so you have to keep switching back to the flash based web client. Not really an ideal situation and hopefully VMware kicks it into high gear with the HTML5 client development so you can use it without limitations.

This link to VMware’s documentation provides a pretty long list of over 200 unsupported functionality actions in the HTML5 client. Note that now that the vSphere C# Client is officially dead they are referring to the HTML5 client as the vSphere Client going forward. The new vSphere Client is built into the vSphere 6.5 vCenter Server Appliance, you can get the latest HTML5 client builds at the VMware Fling page as it is also delivered independently of vSphere and works with vSphere 6.0 & 6.5.

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Nov 18 2016

New PowerCLI cmdlets to support VVol replication in vSphere 6.5

With the release of vSphere 6.5 and support for VVol replication there was also a need to be able to manage and automate certain replication related tasks. Out of the box there is no integration with VMware’s automation products such as SRM and vRealize Orchestrator and Automation. So to be able to actually use the VVol replication capabilities in vSphere 6.5 VMware had to develop new cmdlets for it. There are only a few scenarios associated with VVol replication that you can perform actions on. That includes doing either a planned or unplanned failover, a test failover, reversing replication and forcing a sync replication.

VMware posted PowerCLI 6.5R1 yesterday and below are the cmdlets related to VVol replication along with a brief description on what they do. Customers will have to create their own scripts for now until VMware adds support for VVol replication tasks into their automation products. Also note right now there is no cmdlet for doing a test failover which essentially clones the replicated VVols at the target site and exposes them to vSphere for testing. So if you want to do that (who wouldn’t) you’ll have to use one of their other programming interfaces such as Java.

  • Get-SpbmFaultDomain – This cmdlet retrieves fault domains based on name or ID filter. The fault domain ID is globally unique.
  • Get-SpbmReplicationGroup – This cmdlet retrieves replication groups. The replication groups can be of type source or target.
  • Get-SpbmReplicationPair – This cmdlet retrieves the relation of replication groups in a pair of source and target replication group.
  • Start-SpbmReplicationFailover – This cmdlet performs a failover of the devices in the specified replication groups. This cmdlet should be called at the replication target location. After the operation succeeds, the devices will be ready to be registered by using the virtual machine file path.
  • Start-SpbmReplicationPrepareFailover – This cmdlet prepares the specified replication groups to fail over.
  • Start-SpbmReplicationReverse – This cmdlet initiates reverse replication, by making the currently failed over replication group the source and its peer replication group the target. The devices in the replication group will start getting replicated to this new target site, which was the source before the failover.
  • Sync-SpbmReplicationGroup – This cmdlet synchronizes the data between source and replica for the specified replication group. The replicas of the devices in the replication group are updated and a new point in time replica is created. This function should be called at the replication target location
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Nov 18 2016

Which storage vendors support VVols 2.0 in vSphere 6.5?

Answer: Not many at all. The vSphere 6.5 release introduces the next iteration of VVols that is built on the updated VASA 3.0 specification that brings support for array based replication which was not supported with VVols in vSphere 6. If you take a look at the VVols HCL for vSphere 6.5 there are only 4 vendors listed there for supporting VVols right  now. This is pretty much in line with what happened with the first release of VVols in vSphere 6, only 4 vendors supported VVols on day 1 of the vSphere 6 launch as well.

vvols20-day1The 4 vendors listed in the HCL for supporting VVols in vSphere 6.5 are Fujitisu, Hitachi (HDS), HPE & Huawei. One thing that is not clear though is of those 4 vendors, which of them support replication with VVols. I had heard that there would be an indication of some sort in the HCL listing if a vendor supported VVol replication, presumably this would be listed in the Feature section. If this is the case it looks like there are no vendors that support VVol replication yet. Supporting VVols in vSphere 6.5 doesn’t automatically mean that you support replication as well. I know with HPE specifically, 3PAR does not yet support replication despite supporting VVols in vSphere 6.5, replication support will be coming in an upcoming 3PAR OS release.

I’m not really surprised by the lack of support on day 1 as implementing replication of VVols is complicated and requires a lot of development work. I’ve seen this first hand as I sit in on weekly meetings with the 3PAR VVol development team. To be fair, I don’t expect most vendors to rush their VVol support out the door as there are not really a lot of customers that are upgrading to vSphere 6.5 on day 1. The VVol design partners and reference platforms (HPE, Dell, NetApp) have an edge as they have been working longer at it and also working close with VMware to develop and test VVols through the vSphere 6.5 development lifecycle so I would expect them to be quicker to market with VVols 2.0 support.

So if you don’t see your vendor on the HCL today, have patience as they will likely introduce support for VVols when they are are ready. Remember that VVols is a specification that VMware dictates and it’s up to each vendor to develop their own capabilities within that specification however that want to. I suspect if you check the HCL again in 3 months it will start to grow larger, I’m sure Dell, NetApp and Nimble may be there soon. So stay tuned, if you’re really antsy to replicate VVols check with your storage vendor and ask them when they will deliver it. VVols 2.0 delivers both maturity in the VASA specification as well as replication support so it’s going to be worth the wait.

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Nov 17 2016

A comparison of VMFS5 & VMFS6 in vSphere 6.5

vSphere 6.5 has introduced a new VMFS version 6 and there are a few changes in it compared to VMFS version 5 that you should be aware of. You have to love VMware’s crazy out of sync versioning across their product lines, now naturally you would think vSphere 6.0 would have VMFS6 in it but VMware kept it at VMFS5 with an incremental version and VMFS6 is new with vSphere 6.5. The table below highlights the difference between the two that you should be aware of but I also wanted to make you aware of some additional info you should know when upgrading to vSphere 6.5 or operating in a mixed vSphere version environment.

The first is once again you can’t upgrade in place existing VMFS5 volumes to VMFS6. That royally sucks and you have to plan migrations by creating new VMFS6 datastores, migrating VMs to them with Storage vMotion and then deleting the VMFS5 datastores when you are done to get back your disk space. Depending on your environment and how much space you have available on your array this can be a long and painful migration. [BEGIN VVols Plug] With VVols you don’t have to deal with any of that BS as you aren’t using VMFS and don’t have to constantly upgrade a file system [END VVols Plug]

Now you might think, screw that, a file system is just a file system and I’ll stick with VMFS5, but you miss out on the automatic space reclamation that is finally back in vSphere 6.5. Be aware that the new 512e drive support in vSphere 6.5 is supported on either VMFS6 or VMFS5 as long as the host is running ESXi 6.5. Beyond that there isn’t too much difference between the two, they also both now support 512 LUNs/VMFS datastores per host as well (note vSphere 6.5 storage doc incorrectly states 1024). So you may end up sticking with VMFS5 but I think the automatic reclamation does make for a compelling use case to upgrade to VMFS6.

So it’s up to you to decide, if you want to learn more be sure and look through the vSphere 6.5 storage documentation, and if you are fed up with VMFS upgrades and want something way cooler give VVols a serious look.

Feature & FunctionalityVMFS6VMFS5
Can vSphere 6.5 host access?YesYes
Can vSphere 6.0 and earlier hosts access?NoYes
VMFS Datastores per Host512*512*
512n storage device supportYesYes
512e storage device supportYesYes (Not on local 512e devices)
Automatic space reclamation (UNMAP)YesNo
Manual space reclamation (esxcli)YesYes
Space reclamation within guest OSYesLimited
GPT storage device partitioningYesYes
MBR storage device partitioningNoYes
Block size1MB1MB
Default snapshot typeSEsparseVMFSsparse (virtual disks < 2 TB SEsparse (virtual disks > 2 TB)
Virtual disk emulation type512n512n
Support of small files of 1 KBYesYes

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